It was Ethan (a competitive swimmer, taller than his teachers) whose push sent Johnny (think Owen Meany) reeling to the ground. This happened outside the classroom this week…many witnesses. Yet, what precipitated the action is unclear. What is clear is that Ethan was not initially involved. He thought Emily was being hassled and came to her rescue. Rescue?
Two very eager students wished to share their eye witness accounts. During class Will came to me and whispered what he saw.
“…Then Johnny said, ‘What the hell?’ Huh? No apologetic look for swearing in front of his teacher…the phrase just rolling off his tongue…apparently deemed ok if you are repeating what someone else said.
At the end of class, Dean offered to join the combative trio at lunch to offer his account.
Not waiting, he launched, “Emily fell into Johnny, not sure if she tripped on Johnny’s feet. Then Johnny said, ‘What the hell?’
There it was again.
What the hell?
That’s three students in under an hour.
What the hell? spoken like it’s just part of their lexicon…like they have been saying it for years, not the slightest hint of guilt or even pleasure.
It’s not that I’m not a fan of What the hell? I love phrases that can carry different meanings in different situations. What the hell? used as John did to communicate…What did you do that for? Or, better, the whimsical What the hell? when you’re invited to go out to dinner after you already made yourself a tuna sandwich.
Are you wondering why I am more concerned about What the hell? than I am about students arguing and shoving? Well, no one was hurt; each was culpable…I think…You can never be too sure. Pushing and shoving? Old news. This loosening of our tongues at such a tender age…I need to think about this some more…
Or, maybe I should just go with the flow. What the hell?